Trip Start Mar 01, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Thursday, June 23, 2005

The drive from Little Rock to Memphis was short and HOT. We didn't want to run the air conditioner in the truck because we needed its power to pull the trailer, so by the time we finally got to Elvis Presley Boulevard RV Park and got set up, we were ready to collapse. Welcome back to the South. The park host, Craig, helped us back in - no small feat - then hooked us up with supper and a free limo ride to the restaurant. The limo was to pick us up at 7:30, so we used the time in between to cool down and rest.

A little after five, we noticed a truck and camper beside us having some trouble maneuvering back into the spot. The policy at most campgrounds is that if you come after their office hours, you're on your own until morning when it's time to pay and check-in. This system works really well if you're not new to the road and moving a camper around. And it was obvious that our new neighbors were new. There were three women in the truck: one looked like the grandmother, a mother with a cast on her leg and on crutches, and a girl of about 16 or so. Just as Ed was about to go outside and help them back in, Craig appeared and saved the day. Later, we learned from Craig that they were from Canada and the girl had won a talent contest and wanted to be a country music star, so they bought a camper and came down to Tennessee lock, stock, and barrel. Craig's impression was that they had no idea what they had gotten themselves into.

With our neighbors safely taken care of, we began to get ready for dinner. I donned my camouflage stilettos for the first time since we left Wilmington and we waited for the limo. When it finally came, we discovered we were to be shuttled around in the coolest pink limo (THAT limo, if you're a local) with animal print seat covers, and a driver that reminded me very much of Hunter S. Thompson, whose death altered my reality a bit. However, I don't think Hunter Thompson would have been listening to Christian radio - although with him, you never could tell.

At Marlowe's Ribs and Restaurant, we ordered the dinner for two and ended up with a ton of food: barbecue pork, ribs, beans, slaw, potato salad, rolls, cornbread, corn on the cob. Even after all that, we managed to split an apple crisp a la mode for dessert. Oink. Then it was back to the campground in THAT pink limo.

The next morning, we packed up, hooked up, and headed for Graceland. Our stay in Memphis was only so we could go to Elvis's mansion. Having been to Memphis before, we didn't much want to get caught up with the little old ladies brigades and throngs of crazy tourists to be found on Beale Street, but we did want to see Graceland since we missed it on our first trip. So we pulled the Tin Box with us into the parking lot, left Bandit with lots of water and the fans running, and headed into the Graceland complex. The site is split by Elvis Presley Boulevard with Graceland on one side and everything else across the street. There are two planes on display, numerous cars and motorcycles, outfits, pictures, and as much more Elvis as they could pack in . . . and a charge for everything. We got there relatively early, but there were still people people people there to witness the legacy that is Elvis.

We stood in line for about 45 minutes for the shuttle to take us across the street to the house, a magnificent structure that is quiet and shady compared to the business of the boulevard. Once inside, we only got to tour five or so rooms of the house: Elvis's piano room, his parents' bedroom, the kitchen, the jungle room, the yellow basement complete with multiple televisions and a full bar. The rest of the house (quite a significant portion including a whole separate wing) was off-limits to tourists. I had read somewhere that Lisa Marie still sometimes stays at the house when she comes to Memphis, so as much privacy as possible is maintained. The house was amazing with stained-glass windows, cushy couches, pool tables, and even carpeted ceilings (helps with acoustics).

We also toured Elvis's father's office and a little area that was once a shooting range. The racquetball court had been converted to a small museum and was covered with gold and platinum records from floor to ceiling. Several displays of his outfits were also available for our viewing pleasure. A separate building housed more gold and platinum records and outlined Elvis's career as a musician, an actor, a soldier, and a philanthropist. He apparently gave away more money to help the poor than many give him credit for.

The stables on site still are home to horses, one of which we saw grazing in a meadow behind the house. A walk along the meadow brought us to the pool area and the meditation garden beyond. The meditation garden is now the Presley graveyard where Elvis had his grandmother, parents, and twin moved. Did you know Elvis was a twin? Neither did I . . . until visiting Graceland. And there is a little area at the far left end of the graveyard that I hypothesized is available for Lisa Marie. Daddy's little girl to the end.

We walked back around the front of the house to wait for the shuttle back across the street and marveled at Elvis while we waited. I always knew that Elvis had incredible talent, but seeing film of him live (so to speak) early in his career and witnessing the number of lives he touched by rising beyond his celebrity gave me new respect for him. What a tragic end to such an amazing flame. But I guess that's the way it is when you burn that bright: you burn out fast.

Ed and I ate an overpriced Elvis lunch before leaving Graceland, and headed on to Nashville.
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